Friday, April 30, 2010

Final Week!

April 19-23: This being my final week of personal training due to exams starting next week, I'd like to outline just a few of the things I've learned:

1. Every college girl has convinced herself that she needs to lose at least 10 lbs and, even if you try to persuade her otherwise, she probably won't believe you. Thus, for this population, I prefer not to use the scale as part of my initial assessment because I believe fitness goals rather than body weight to be a better measurement of overall health.

2. First impressions of fitness can be very deceiving. Some of the healthiest looking people are in fact the weakest, while those who would appear out of shape are often the most familiar to exercise.

3. Not everyone likes to be instructed by a drill sergeant. For some people, any form of exercise is uncomfortable and intensity is a goal rather than a standard.

4. Feedback, feedback, feedback! People are not as inclined as I thought they would be to give feedback. If the weight is too heavy or something hurts, the grimace on your face won't always make me guess that something is wrong. You have to speak up!

5. Planning other people's workouts is the #1 de-motivator for planning my own.

Weeks 11-12

April 5-14: I'm combining these two weeks for two reasons:
1. I leave in the morning on Thursday, April 15 to be a conference track meet all weekend so this week will be cut short in terms of personal training sessions, and
2. Due to having to travel to Charleston for the meet, I know there is no way I will have time to update this blog over the weekend and would rather record this week's events so far while they are fresh in my mind.

Though I didn't think it was possible, training has picked up its pace even more in the last couple weeks. Or perhaps the rest of life has begun to implore its increased demands as well. The time commitment demanded of my athletic training field experience with HPU's Track and Field team on top of my hours personal training makes for a very, very busy day. Every weekday from 8 am in the morning until 6 or 7 at night, every hour is scheduled to class, personal training, or being at track practice. Weekends now have completely disappeared in the midst of lengthy track meets. As my own schedule grows increasingly busy, I also noticed this week, a decline in attendance to personal training sessions. After three or four cancellations between the end of last week and beginning of this one, I finally decided to enforce the programs attendance plan once again to all my clients. Although more than half of the people I work with maintain nearly perfect attendance, those that do not create incredible frustration for me when I prepare a routine for them and allot time in my schedule to help meet their fitness goals, and they fail to hold up their end of the agreement. Since the service is free to them, I don't think they realize the amount of effort that goes on behind the scenes. Hopefully next week will show improvements in people's dedication to attending their sessions, despite everyone's busy schedules as we approach exams.

Week 10

March 29-April 2: I've been very lucky so far in my array of clients and have truly enjoyed working with each of them. For the first time, however, I'm beginning to feel consistently frustrated toward one specific session. This client is often difficult to read, which makes open communication more challenging from the beginning. To compensate, I try to ask more questions to gauge feedback and determine her reactions to the exercises prescribed. Often, her answers are unhelpful or half-hearted so it is difficult to tell if they are in fact true. While most of my clients come in energetic and ready to engage in whatever activity I prescribe, this client sometimes seems almost resentful of her time spent in sessions, which makes for a very frustrating 45 minutes as I feel time spent on exercise routines is making her miserable. As discomforting as our interaction is, I still appreciate the responsibility and opportunity to help her meet her fitness goals. However, this week I was forced to address with her the issue of attendance when she missed both our scheduled meeting times within the week. Though it has not been enforced up until this time for lack of necessity, our program does have an attendance policy due to the high demand of a service offered free of charge to university students. Upon sending an email notification of the policy and the possible consequences of missing sessions, the client failed to show up to our next meeting time without affording me any notification.

The majority of my experience so far has been nothing but enjoyable, and every student I have worked with thus far has expressed such great appreciation for the time I put into their sessions. Other than this one incidence, I have had no additional frustrations in my experience so far.

Week 9

March 22-26: Last week I decided to try using a foundational workout with each of my clients with minor changes to fit each of their individual needs, and having tried the method more than twice in a row, I am happy to discover that it works!!! Rather than hastily planning 7 different workouts which is often exhausting and mentally draining as I run out of new exercises by the last routine, I spend quality time creating a skeleton of a workout that flows together seamlessly and can be expanded upon based on which client I am working with.

My favorite part about this session so far is the opportunity I have to work with two clients at one time. Both girls are motivated and enthusiastic about being involved in personal training and I enjoy watching the interactions between them. Working with two people at once makes planning workouts that much more important, as I have to consider how to balance exercises that require the use of a machine or set of dumbbells when only one is available. I have begun to utilize both supersetting and circuit techniques, which also eliminates rest time between exercises. Working with multiple clients rather than just one on one has made me consider teaching group exercise classes in addition to personal training.

Week 8

March 15-19: Back from spring break and ready to start working again...

Last session, I often designed a different workout for each client due to their varying fitness levels, weight-room experience, and individual goals. While it challenged my creative ability, it also demanded a great deal of extra planning. This session, most of my clients are relatively experienced exercisers so for this first week, I am going to make many of their workouts foundationally the same with only minor changes to fit their personal goals and preferences. Though I am far from expert, I am beginning to be able to better analyze my clients' abilities, which makes for more successful workouts that need less tweaking. As the semester picks up, I am very thankful for the luxury of being able to use one workout with multiple clients, not only for convenience sake, but also because each time I lead the exercise routine, I am more confident in my directions. This is evident to clients and makes them feel assured that their workout has been thoroughly thought out and is being executed with certainty.

Week 7

March 1-5: So thus began the first week of session 2…

I was expecting the first week of scheduling initial meeting times to be a logistical disaster, but everything actually worked out a lot better than I thought it would. Surprisingly, all 7 of the girls who signed up on the interest sheet chose a different 30 min window off of the list of available times that I offered. Since we only had this one week before spring break, I figured I would use the time to have the initial meetings so people could sign and fill out paperwork, but I wouldn’t begin actual workouts until we got back from break. And for me personally, the week of personal training “light” was a much needed reprieve.

For this session, in addition to the people who put their names on the 2nd session sign-up sheet, I decided to continue with two of my clients from last session who diligently attended every session and were beginning to show marked progress. I’ve decided after my experience last session that four weeks for personal training is far too short, especially if I only meet with a person once a week. As I’ve recently learned in exercise physiology, strength gains within the first four weeks are predominantly neuromuscular, and thus by the time I actually get to the hypertrophy phase of adaptation with each girl, I have to set them free. So I added some earlier morning hours to make room for one of my favorite clients. I call this method “Long-Term Analysis of Amy’s Effectiveness as a Personal Trainer.”

By the end of the week I had met with all but one of my potential clients. So my roster for this session includes 7 new and 2 returning clients for a total of 9 poor souls who might go to bed sore every night for the rest of the semester.

Week 6

February 22-26: These past few weeks I've been struggling with finding workouts that suit one of my clients who is less familiar with weight room equipment and organized exercise. During our first session when I prescribed the diagnostic full-body workout which is designed to be of moderate intensity and easily adjusted for any fitness level, we were unable to make it through even half of the workout before my client began to feel sick. Taking into consideration the fact that I had begun the workout with more intensive cardio movements and immediately moved into a full-body workout, I designed her next workout to have a light, cardio warm-up and gradually progress through the upper body exercises. Within 10 min after our light cardio warm-up, my client once again began to feel nauseous. Frustrated with not being able to design a workout my client was able to complete even halfway, I took a new approach in developing her workout for last week. Instead of trying to combine the most energy demanding exercises by interspersing them with periods of less intensive activities, I compiled a lower intensity routine that included a light, cardio warm-up followed by low-resistance exercises designed to target each lower body muscle group in near isolation. By taking out the high-intensity, multi-joint exercises, my client was able to concentrate on contracting one muscle group at a time and felt less overwhelmed by not having to exert maximal, full-body effort with every repetition. In addition, the isolating exercises help build neuromuscular connections that are necessary for the body awareness required for more advanced exercises. And her workout went so much better that she was able to challenge herself enough to complete it without ever feeling sick!

All that to say that this week, I've made a second attempt at designing a workout catered to her specific fitness level and once again, had success in designing a challenging, yet acceptable workout!

Week 5

February 15-19: Week 5 and I'm still figuring out the kinks in being a personal trainer. It's so different communicating with clients and administering exercises as a professional than trying to encourage a friend to keep up with you in a workout! I'm realizing the people's different personalities cause them to respond to things in very different ways. Some of my clients are verbal and expressive and it's easy to tell when an exercise is too hard, too easy, or just challenging enough. They complain about exercises they don't like and challenge themselves through the ones that they do. Their feedback makes sessions go by quickly and enables me to build a relationship with them so that each of us are more at ease during workouts. In addition, the more feedback they give me, the more feedback I feel I can give them on how to perform the exercises. These conversational exchanges build my confidence and theirs, which definitely results in an overall better experience. Clients who give less feedback are much more challenging to work with and engage in the routine. If an exercise is too high in intensity or they have difficulty moving their body in the way it demands, without feedback from the client, I am unable to observe their distress and therefore will not adjust the exercise. As the exercises and routines progress in complexity, I am learning to ask clients for feedback to establish with them an open system of communication. I'm positive it will benefit both of our experiences.

Week 4

February 8-12: This week we're starting the real workouts. Since I meet with most of my clients twice a week, I've designed their first workouts to target upper body and I plan on developing their second workouts toward lower body strengthening. I've decided that each day will begin with 10 min or 1 mile of cardio on either the elliptical, bike, treadmill, or track. Some days, they will get to choose their cardio machine. Other days, when the workout includes intervals or a timed distance, they will have to use the treadmill in order to maintain consistency.

So far this week, I've realized how different it is to plan and implement a workout for someone else than to make one for myself. Designing one for a client requires you to estimate their level of fitness and how they will respond to certain exercises, then have modifications in mind in case the exercise is too difficult. Since the workouts I plan for myself tend to be high intensity (so much so that I often overestimate my own ability to complete them), I realized after directing my clients through their first workouts, that more moderate intensity workouts are necessary for people unfamiliar with high volumes of exercise. Planning and directing these types of workouts is more difficult than I thought it would be. I think a lot of my learning and getting better is going to end up being trial and error.

Week 3

February 1-5: This week I began working with my first clients. I have 4 girls that I meet with twice a week and 1 with whom I meet once. With the initial paperwork out of the way, we are clear to start actual workouts.

I use the same diagnostic workout with each person on the first day, using various modifications based on the girl’s skill level. The workout consists of a 3-4 supersets of push-ups and pull-ups, 3-4 supersets of sit-ups and back extensions, and 3-4 sets of lunges with some type of active recovery in between each set. I encouraged all of my girls to attempt their first set of push-ups in normal position, and to transition to their knees when they could no longer maintain form. Surprisingly to me, most of the girls were unable to perform a push-up with correct form. Most inadequacies in form stem from a weak core, resulting in sinking hips, winging scapula, or arched back. Pull-ups were easily modified by adding more weight to assist in the upward phase. Sit-ups and back extension exercises remained standard, with variation only in the number of repetitions based on the girl’s indicated discomfort level. For lunges, I normally had each person use 10 lbs dumbbells in each hand, and each set was separated by a 30 second bout of jump rope or jumping jacks.

The purpose of this workout is to determine where each client is weakest and needs to focus on building strength. Most of the girls I work with do the majority of their normal workouts on the cardio equipment and have never attempted to use the machines or free weights in the weight room. It is important in planning the remainder of their program that I have an idea as to the exercises in which they excel and will encourage them, and those that will challenge them to grow stronger. Thus, the workout targets the entire body as well as including many foundational movements that can be transferred to exercises I hope to use in the future.

Week 2

January 25-30: I spent the weekend copying information from the AFAA textbook, emailing the other trainers their list of interested students, contacting those who had requested to work with me, and compiling the necessary documents to fill out at an initial meeting. The rest of the week consisted of meeting with each of my potential clients to explain the paperwork I presented them and record their pertinent information requested by the pre-determined forms. Finally, I offered them my available hours and we decided upon a regular meeting time.

All of the initial meetings went smoothly. The forms included a liability waiver for High Point University, a basic personal/medical information sheet, a standard PAR-Q and You form, and a brief physical assessment data sheet. This sheet included their height, weight, resting heart rate, blood pressure, and standard physical fitness assessment scores for flexibility, push-ups, and sit-ups.

All but one client indicated a low risk profile. Unsure of the proper protocol and legal liability for working with a moderate to high risk client, I turned to Mat for approval. Unfortunately, at this early stage in the program’s development, he asked that I postpone working with her until he was able to determine the appropriate legal and medical clearance the situation required. I was disappointed at his decision as I was looking forward to the challenge of designing a carefully modified program, however, for the sake of this client’s personal safety, I respect Mat’s decision.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Work Out

Warm-up: Run/walk outside, on the elliptical, treadmill, or track for 5 min. Go for 1 mile if you’re feeling ambitious.

Work out:

Exercise Reps Sets Modification/Progression
Burpees 8-10

Do as circuit

4 -5 times,

30 sec rest

Decrease/increase reps
Double crunches 20 Add weight/med ball
Step-ups 10 each side Hold dumbbells or place barbell across shoulders
Bicycle Crunches 20 (count every other one) Decrease/increase reps
Med Ball Squat and Throw (w/ partner or against wall) 15 Decrease/increase weight/reps
Leg Press 12-15 3-4 Decrease/Increase weight
Calf Raises 20-30 3-4 Hold dumbbells or place barbell across shoulders

Cool down: Stretch calf muscles, quads, hamstrings, butt, and abs

How it all started...

Week 1: (January 18-23) After two semesters of attempt, we finally have the Personal Training Program up and running at HPURec! The program’s initiation has been repeatedly postponed as Mat, the Director of HPU Rec, attempted to finalize all the legal proceedings necessary for implementing such a service to students. At the end of last semester, when the liability contracts were finally approved, Mat put the development and execution of the program, as well as any other certified trainer hoping to work for HPU, under my control. Beginning this semester, his primary role has been to oversee and provide approval or clearance when my standing as an HPU student prevents a necessary action.

The first week was a bit of a frustration as, in the midst of its very first step, the program got tripped up on the unforgiving foot of miscommunication: the announcement proclaiming its emergence never went out in the campus-wide email updates from the Concierge, further delaying the actual launch date yet another week. Finally, after three days without any indication that an announcement had even been created to be posted, I took it upon myself to begin attracting clients. Rather than waiting for the official sign-up sheet with the HPU Rec logo to show up at the front desk, I printed my own copy on plain white paper and placed it with the other informational handouts at the entrance of the gym. By the next morning, each of our 3 trainers had clients waiting to be contacted.